Alternative Home Heating Questions

Part II: How to make a good choice in alternative home heating

[Published: February 2017]

This is a “How To Shop for an Alternative Heating Source” guide from Chris Livengood, owner at Chelsea Hearth and Fireplaces.  She put this together to help homeowners from Chelsea, Dexter, Ann Arbor and surrounding communities with their research and answers to heating appliance questions regarding wood burning fireplace inserts, wood pellet stoves and and pellet inserts.

Data taken from the Pellet Fuels Institute shows the current cost of wood pellets at $260/ton, which equates to a cost of $19.82 per one million BTU. Coal cost is $350/ton, which costs $15.25/million BTU. A full cord of hardwood cost estimate is $190, costing $15.83/million BTU. These figures, when compared to Fuel Oil at $30.29, propane at $34.67 and electricity at $29.31/million BTU are a significant savings. Natural gas cost estimates are around $19.39 / million BTU.

Typically, wood stoves will cost less to purchase than wood pellet or corn stoves. However, pellet/corn stoves do not require a chimney, instead they use a direct-vent system. This allows you to vent directly through an exterior wall with very little pipe showing on the outside of your home. The direct vent systems usually cost around $300. A wood stove will require a class A chimney and depending on how high you need to run it above the roof line, can add upwards of $800 or more to the cost of your stove.

Chimney Vents for Fireplace Inserts and Stoves

Most manufacturers will post on their website their dealers located closest to you. When shopping for a stove, the retailer is one of the most important decisions you need to make. Ask yourself, “Did they take the time to answer the questions I had? Did they show me how to operate and care for the stove? Do they offer installation? Will they be there to service any problems or answer future operational questions I may have?”

Internet buying is a common trend, but buyers need to beware! Many manufacturers are not obligated to warranty items purchased privately through the internet. Also, some dealers won’t service stoves purchased online. Reputable stove manufacturers will not be selling direct to consumers on the internet.

Look for stores that have stove demos operating on display. Listen to the blowers. Free standing wood and wood pellet/corn stove’s blower quality varies. Many pellet and corn stoves come with automatic ignite and built-in thermostats.

Some wood stove models have a re-burn feature. Re-burn is basically taking the gases created from the burned logs and re-burns it, thus allowing fewer emissions to escape up the chimney and more heat output into the home. Match the different features to see which best fits your needs.

Also, how much maintenance is required? All stoves are not created equal. Like other appliances in your home, you get what you pay for. You are investing in an appliance with the hopes of being able to cut your heating costs for many years. It should be treated like any other home-improvement investment.

Many dealers offer financing. If not, check with your local lending institute to see how it can be refinanced into your existing mortgage. Beginning January 2009, there is a new tax credit available when filing your taxes for all stoves purchased. This is being offered as a “Green” incentive to encourage Americans to use renewable energy sources. This is not a deduction but rather a set dollar amount that is credited to you. Check for current energy tax credit information and how it may apply to you.